WHAT IS YOUR BOOK ABOUT? The Forgotten Future allows readers a peek behind the doors of a locked psychiatric unit for adolescents and provides insight into what life inside an acute psychiatric hospital is really like, for the patients and for the staff. It tells the stories of some of the troubled teens with whom I have worked in Connecticut, Alaska, and Virginia. The stories are all true, although I have placed all of the patients into a composite hospital which I have called “Oak Haven”. The book is reader-friendly as it tells the stories of adolescents suffering from a variety of mental disorders and explains many of the unit rules and actions of the staff. It also demonstrates the dangers of physical and mechanical restraints as I tell of the death of one of my patients who died during such a restraint. As an assist to parents, The Forgotten Future provides appendices with resources and important information about how, when, and where to seek help for troubled children, as well as specific questions to ask of providers and mental health facilities.
WHY DID YOU WRITE THE BOOK? Twenty percent of the children under the age of 18 in the United States have mental illnesses, and between six and nine million of those children have a serious emotional disturbance. Each year, hundreds of thousands of these children and adolescents are confined to inpatient psychiatric hospitals, residential treatment centres, therapeutic foster homes, treatment academies, and behavioural boot camps. After having worked with children and adolescents in the mental health field for more than twenty years, I have come to believe that despite those extraordinary numbers, many of our children are not receiving optimal treatment for their mental health issues. I wrote The Forgotten Future: Adolescents in Crisis to provide an unprecedented insider’s look into a system which has serious inadequacies and to raise the question, “Can’t we do better by our children?”
HOW DOES YOUR BOOK DIFFER FROM OTHERS THAT ARE SIMILAR? I always say that my book is no “Girl Interrupted”. Mine is better. It is contemporary, whereas Girl Interrupted was published 25 years after it reportedly took place (1967). Hospital lengths of stay are shorter now and the availability and use of medications has increased substantially. Also, The Forgotten Future focuses on many young people from diverse backgrounds, rather than on one individual.
HOW DO YOU MARKET YOU BOOK? The Forgotten Future is a niche book, but it is a very broad niche. Almost everyone has a friend, a child, a neighbour, or a friend with a troubled child with a mental disorder, and they’re all looking for answers. In addition, teachers, counsellors, psychiatric nurses, and others will all find something in it. I use the Internet extensively and market to local and national mental health organizations, psychiatric nurses’ groups, schools and mental health facilities. And I always keep my web site at www.debebel.com updated.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU HAD TO OVERCOME? My biggest challenge was trying to have my editor(s) understand my book’s needs. For example, at first the designer set the cover with sort of a Gothic-looking typeface that really creeped me out. I suppose she had not read the book and she must have thought from the title that The Forgotten Future was a futuristic novel of some sort. Anyway, it took several weeks to get that straightened out. All in all, though, things went smoothly.